This is a blog of ongoing projects starting with: 1) Antarctica -Dec. 2006 - February 2007 2) Work made from the experience 2008 3) Nevada Feb. - Oct. 2008

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some people with stories

Unknown San

Layers of Time and Waves of Events

This is my last day here. I have been collating all the research I have done. Lining up all my collected objects, and collecting stories from the various people here who have agreed to do a portrait.

Of the research, my hunch is that the work should be about revealing what is hidden. This includes the rock and cave systems that underlie the Cradle, which have been slowly giving up their secrets in the fossil layers of plants, algae, sea creatures, and the fossilised remains of animals and early hominids going back 2 million years. Within this time line have been several catastrophic events including 3 magnetic pole reverses, which will led to the deaths of the hominids seeking water under the ground.

Going back further to the Impact event 2 billion years ago, a time when plants were just beginning to create oxygen from CO2. This event will have altered the rock beds in the cradle creating caves which slope gently into the rock. This destruction may well have upset things enough to kick start more life forces, which you could say was a creative event. The Earth has seen cycles of destruction and creation. From melted rock created during the asteroid impact, you get a line of rock boulders which 10,000 years ago San people use as a rain making site to encourage the cycle of life of which they were a part.

Just as behind each person I have met here, is a hidden story, so the Earth itself reveals glimpses of its hidden layers of history going back to the formation of the Earths' crust 4 billion years ago:
layers of time and waves of events.

My intention is to try to encapsulate some of this in a small rock chamber, set under some trees and within a circle of revealed bedrock. The interior of the chamber will plot the movement of the sun over a year and will have drawings in iron oxide on the walls - alluding to plants, fossils, shattered rock, time and waves as in sound waves, shock waves, waves of events.

Over the coming months I will be planning these drawings as works on paper and as prints as well as using geological and topographic maps. I will also begin work on transforming the portrait images into the stories given me by the various individuals. Then it is hoped I will return to make the chamber and show the works on paper in a space in Johannesburg, perhaps during the art fair here next September.

Studio and objects

Tortoise shells
Creation Destruction rocks, from The Cradle of Humankind and Vredefort Impact dome

Stromatolites: plants which began the process of creating oxygen on the planet - Cradle

Drawings for Time/Wave chamber

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

San rock drawings


In Johannesburg at Wits University is the Origins Centre, a remarkable museum of early man, displaying skulls, tools, rock drawings and some remarkable film of San bushmen killing an Eland, doing a healing trance dance and talking about the various aspects of the paintings, dance, healing and ways into another world, through cracks in the rock, or down a termite nest.

All of this came as a jolt to me because at Nirox I have been thinking along the lines of a chamber into another world; inside/outside, revealing the cracked dolomite paving rocks, and the significance of caves and the underworld, which have revealed the remains of very early hominids. Here at the museum and earlier out at the dome I have encountered just that in the San rock art.

My introduction to the Origin Centre came through Hugh Brody in London, who put me in touch with Ben Smith at the Centre, and Ben advised that I take a drive out to a farm 2 hours from here to see more petroglyphs and to the Drakensburgs to see rock paintings, copies of which he showed me at the museum. These paintings are going fast, vandalism, rain etc etc. so they are making meticulous tracings. They are also in the process of trying to get all of world rock paintings onto a web site because there are so many crossovers between cultures.

So today I drove out with Stephan to Bosworth Farm, just north of the impact Dome. There we were given tea by Dr Neil Orford and his wife. They have a stud farm for race horses and Sussex Cattle. Neil worked as a vet in Sussex, many years ago. He has also had many encounters with modern day bushmen who have worked for him on various farms and he has nothing but praise for them. he even reminded me that Mandela has strong bushman blood in his veins (you can see it in his face) which accounts for his compassion and intelligence.

So Neil then handed us over to Petreus who was to be our guide for the morning. The three of us drove up to a low boulder strewn hill. Clouds were gathering and the sky was looking somewhat black. We were a bit apprehensive because the rock has a lot of iron in it and attracts lightning!

At the gateway to the hill was a single standing figure with very obvious San features. From then on we threaded our way between rocks, Petreus pointing out drawings which we would never have noticed. Subtly pecked into the rock, these are the most delicate, tender and beautiful of images, drawn with great surety, not for the sake of art but to heal someone or to give a sense of power for anyone who later touches them.

Searching for drawings




Hippo emerging







As well as the animal and human drawings there many more hallucinatory images which looked to be the kind of images which might come up during a trance dance. As well as these, there are the purely abstract patterns which Petreus says denote that here a healing took place.

Hallucinatory beings

Healing place

Many of the drawings are so faded in color, that without Petreus keen eyes and awareness we would never have known just what we were looking at. Most of the drawings face the slope down to the river where many of these animals were to be found. You stand in front of them, they may have been done 300, 3000, or 30,000 years ago, no one knows for sure, but tears come to your eyes and you are gripped by both sadness and elation.

As we return to Nirox the storm finally breaks and there is rain, hail, thunder and lightning. Nature demonstrates its power and the first rains of Spring have arrived.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vredefort - an impact Crater

As part of my research into the geology and archeology of the area I had asked to visit the Vredefort Impact Crater. 2 Billion years ago an asteroid hit the earth at this spot, creating a crater 300 km across with an impact dome in the middle 90 Km. across. This dome was formed by compressed rock coming back up again, like a rain drop does in a bowl of water. It was the remains of this dome which we were due to visit with the Geologist from Wits, Professor Roger Gibson. We spent the morning exclusively with him, looking at the rock at ground Zero, the various impact melt and fractured rock at the domes edge, and then after lunch joined a bigger tour looking at all the various rock, iron age settlements, Voer trekker farms, early gold mines, Boer war sites and ending up at a seam of melt rock, in the plains near the centre, called pseudotachylite on which were San petroglyphs of various animals and spirit creatures.

All the rocks on this hill at the edge of what was a dome have been lifted from the horizontal to the vertical and shattered.
On the edge of what was the dome looking at seams of pseudotachylite

We crossed the Vaal river and headed into the haze of the centre to what was ground zero and is now a shallow lake caused when an ice sheet, which was at some time responsible for eroding the dome, created a hollow. There are granite boulders strewn across the plain. These are some of the oldest rocks on earth, formed over 4 billion years ago when the earths crust solidified. These rocks formed the bedrock of the dome, ie the bottom of the impact. Everything else, including the asteroid was simply vaporised or hurled into the air. You would have had 4 K square blocks of rock hurled 40 k into the air. Everything beneath the surface was compressed and then sprung back up.

At the centre here, the impact of this 10 km. long flying piece of rock traveling at thousands of miles an hour was massive. The granite was heated, melted and fractured forming pockets of melt known as Granophyre in what had become a kind of plasticine rock. Its rapid cooling meant that this melted rock formed a kind of black glass, a tiny percentage of which is meteorite.
As the rock shattered it formed cracks which in grating together heated the rock to around 14,00 degrees, almost double the heat which will normally melt rock. The resulting liquid melt ran into all of the cracks, some of them several metres wide. this again is the fine grained, black pseudotachylite and is a conglomerate of all the melted rock around it. It takes this new form because it cools rapidly, so being unable to reform its original crystalline state.

pseudotachylite breccia within granite. Friction in the cracks, seconds after impact, melted the rock which ran into the cracks

After lunch we joined a bigger tour and headed for the old gold mines and Boer war sites.

Upended quartzite on the Vaal river which cuts through the dome. These layers of rock are ancient beaches.

searching for gold in the ancient river deposits.

Roger explaining the significance of the shatter patterns in the rock.

As the sun dropped lower in the sky we walked across flat farmland near the centre, headed for a small tree and a line of boulders on the horizon. This is a pseudotachylite fault line, eroded into a line of massive boulders. There is evidence here of massive destruction 2 billion years ago, but 10,000 years ago, San bushmen were using this place as a sacred rain making line. For some reason the rocks have attracted acid drips of water, either from trees, or from a since eroded porous rock. As a result these rocks have little depressions and cups within them which hold water. Rain brings the migrating animals onto fresh grass and so it is here on these rocks, which were once melted at 1,400 degrees centigrade, that the bushmen chipped images of animals and possibly a rain man.

Pseudotachylite fault line of melt boulders

Water cup rocks





Horned rain man?

As the sun sinks low we head back after a very long but extraordinary day, where we have looked at evidence of absolute destruction. A mountain sized rock traveling at 10 Km per second, blasts the Earth causing a fireball with temperatures up to 20,000 degrees centigrade and penetrating 40 Km into the bedrock, creating a 90 Km dome in a 300 Km crater. All this in about 10 minutes max. Early hominids will have lived in the area as they did in the Cradle 2 million years ago, and 10,000 years ago the San will have seen evidence in the rock of water and life. Perhaps the rocks allowed for the growth of trees which attract water and animals seeking shade. The San turned this site of destruction into a place of creation. Creation, destruction, creation, destruction, creation.